Top 3 signs you may have Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease may not be well-known, but it’s a surprisingly common medical issue that could be affecting you.
About 5% of people over age 50 in the United States (approximately 8-12 million people) deal with the disease. It starts when a fatty substance builds up in your arteries, in a condition known as atherosclerosis. This fatty build-up causes your arteries to harden and narrow, which can slow and eventually stop your blood from flowing.
“This plaque that builds up in your arteries and veins is a waxy, fatty substance caused by high levels of cholesterol and worsened by smoking,” Dr. David Paolini, Vascular Surgeon with Western Vascular Institute, says.
It’s essential to treat peripheral artery disease early to prevent tissue damage, foot or leg amputation, heart attack, or stroke. Unfortunately, some of the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, which can lead to misdiagnosis. Talk to your primary care doctor if you’ve noticed any of these three common signs that you may have peripheral artery disease.
Lower limb cramps
You may feel cramps in your hips, legs, or feet when climbing stairs, exercising, or walking.
“If there’s a blood-flow blockage due to plaque build-up, the muscles won’t get enough blood during exercise to meet their needs,” according to the Society for Vascular Surgery. “The ‘cramping’ pain (called ‘intermittent claudication’), when caused by PAD, is the muscles’ way of warning the body that it isn’t receiving enough blood during exercise to meet the increased demand.”
As the condition worsens, leg pain may persist even when resting. The pain will feel like it’s coming from your muscles rather than your joints.
While feeling pain in the leg muscles even while at rest is a common sign of peripheral artery disease, some people suffering from PAD may not notice pain in the lower half of their bodies at all. According to a study in Circulation Research, only 15% of people with peripheral artery disease experienced symptoms of intermittent claudication.
Lower extremity wounds that don’t heal
Wounds should naturally get better over time, so visit a doctor if you have a wound that doesn’t heal within eight weeks.
Wounds that take an excessive amount of time to heal may be a sign of peripheral artery disease because the condition results in narrow arteries that carry less oxygen and nutrients where they need to go. According to Informed Health, the poor circulation in your hips or legs often prevents wounds from healing properly.
A decrease in leg temperature
Another sign that your blood isn’t circulating properly is a decline in the temperature of your legs and feet. You may be able to feel the difference when you put one hand on each leg or when comparing your legs to the rest of your body.
As your circulation gets worse, your toes may look blueish, your toenails and leg hair will grow slower, and you may even develop gangrene.
If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, there is help. The surgeons at Western Vascular Institute specialize in treating the circulatory system, and the Institute’s Vascular Surgery Centers are the only Joint Commission accredited Peripheral Vascular Dedicated laboratories in Arizona. Learn more and schedule an appointment at WesternVascular.com.